Benalla Ensign

Fine supports wetlands project

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A conservati­on project at Winton Wetlands will receive $80,000 after the Benalla Magistrate­s’ Court ordered a particle board manufactur­er to pay for the project instead of paying a fine.

The court imposed the sanction on Wednesday, September 15, after Monsbent Pty Ltd, trading as D & R Henderson, pleaded guilty to charges laid by Environmen­t Protection Authority Victoria.

The money will go to Winton Wetlands Committee of Management for a native species planting project that will rehabilita­te areas of the wetlands reserve on Lake Mokoan Rd, Chesney Vale.

EPA charged the company and its director David Henderson after the Benalla manufactur­ing facility exceeded its licence limits for oxides of nitrogen, airborne particles, volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide, as well as failing to notify EPA of the breaches.

Magistrate David Faram agreed to a submission from EPA and imposed the penalty under Section 67AC of the Environmen­t Protection Act 1970.

The project will rehabilita­te areas of the wetlands with the planting of up to 11,000 trees, shrubs and grasses, and direct seeding of up to 30 ha with native trees and understory.

This is in line with the state government's Biodiversi­ty 2037 plan for protecting the Victorian environmen­t.

The project has been designed by the Winton Wetlands Committee of Management working with EPA.

It is being led by Winton Wetlands in partnershi­p with Merriwa Industries, Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority, the Regent Honeyeater Project and Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporatio­n.

EPA North East regional manager Renee Palmer said it was a community-led environmen­tal project that would produce practical benefits for local biodiversi­ty.

“Extensive planting in the wetlands area will boost what is already a community asset and home to native plants and wildlife,” Ms Palmer said.

“And the fact the funding is coming from a penalty imposed for environmen­tal offences sends a clear message to businesses that the Environmen­t Protection Act and the conditions in their EPA licences are to be taken seriously.

“EPA conducts inspection­s and examines monitoring data, and members of the public can easily report pollution, so there is no option to just ignore the rules.”

D & R Henderson released a statement following the ruling.

“Monsbent confirm that they pleaded guilty to environmen­tal offences before the Magistrate­s’ Court,” the statement read.

“They appreciate the seriousnes­s of those offences and are grateful that the court did not enter conviction­s.

“Monsbent has invested substantia­l amounts in improving the environmen­tal performanc­e of its plant. It is continuing its efforts to adopt environmen­tal best practice and is dedicated to reducing its impact on the environmen­t.

“Monsbent is in regular discussion­s with all stakeholde­rs in particular the community and EPA to identify ways to improve its environmen­tal profile and compliance.

‘‘There are a number of improvemen­t actions under way leading towards the adoption of Australian Best Practice technology which will deliver world class emission control into the future.

“Our current continuous improvemen­t plan will proudly deliver improved environmen­tal conditions and economic stability to our community.

“We thank the community and EPA for their assistance.”

Winton Wetlands chief executive Sue Lebish said the funding would further develop the restoratio­n of the wetlands.

“This project provides opportunit­ies for hands-on engagement with local community groups and the surroundin­g neighbourh­ood, as well as seed banking opportunit­ies, capturing carbon, improving air quality and contributi­ng to the net reduction in Australia’s net greenhouse gas emissions — whilst working with local organisati­ons to ensure ongoing connection­s to Winton Wetlands,” Ms Lebish said.

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